Research funding enables research careers, but funding is often disproportionately inaccessible to people of colour. In the UK, this is particularly true for Black researchers, who are less likely to be awarded research grants than White researchers.
Inequity in the funding system perpetuates longstanding disparities in representation and undermines the potential for innovation and progress. Looking at Wellcome’s own funding data, it’s clear that we are also part of the problem, which is why we’re taking action as part of our equity, diversity and inclusion strategy.
The work of Black-led organisations
Supportive infrastructure for Black researchers almost exclusively comes from the passion and energy of individual Black researchers, who have identified gaps and created their own support systems.
Collectively, these Black-led grassroots organisations provide invaluable resources such as mentorship, networks, peer-to-peer support, a sense of belonging and culturally sensitive assistance around challenges such as mental health.
These groups vary extensively and include those that convene around specific research disciplines, offer specific support functions or are larger professional bodies. But one thing that’s usually consistent is that they’re volunteer-led and managed on the side of research careers.
This is sustained by good will and dedication. But it’s often not sustainable.
While ambition and dedication allow many groups to survive and thrive, others have launched and closed, meaning Black researchers lose vital support.
Improving sustainability will strengthen and enhance the supportive ecosystem around Black researchers. And that’s why we want to listen to and engage with the people running these organisations in the UK to understand what support would be beneficial to advance their work.
How can we support these organisations?
First, we’re hosting a series of externally facilitated focus groups and interviews with leaders of grassroots, Black-led organisations in the UK. We want to hear from individuals who have founded or maintained these networks, providing critical support to Black researchers.
Groups can be at any stage from new to well-established, be of varying sizes, and may no longer be active.
From these conversations we want to understand the opportunities and challenges for groups to grow and continue, and how funders can work to alleviate these issues.
People taking part in focus groups will be compensated for sharing their valuable insights and time. These insights will inform how we can support these vital organisations and will be combined with information we gather from organisations outside the UK, who we will contact directly. We will share key findings to enable other funders to do the same.
What else is Wellcome doing?
Becoming an inclusive funder is central to our diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. And it’s supported by a series of actions we committed to following an evaluation of our anti-racism programme that was published last year [PDF 1.65MB].
Further key actions that we have committed to this year include understanding how we can better support Black researchers in the UK who are early in their careers and applying positive action principles to funding decisions.
This article was first published on 16 March 2023. It was updated to include a link to information about participation in the focus groups. Registration for the focus groups has now closed.